Sunday, January 13, 2013
Ellen Datlow
By OFW Editor: Michael Keyton
Published: November 19, 2012

Accomplishment: Multiple award-winning editor, Ellen Datlow, has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for almost thirty years and has edited more than fifty anthologies. Ellen is currently tied with frequent co-editor Terri Windling as the winner of the most World Fantasy Awards in the organization's history (nine).

I walked along corridors, shelves groaning with books - on dark nights they screamed – past lesser shelves, whispering in parchment and shadow. Eventually I reached the main library, where Sheri holed up researching her stuff.

“What gives?”

Sheri Lamour sighed and closed the book, stroked its front cover with a pale finger tipped in magenta.
"Ellen Datlow," she said. Just that. Ellen Datlow.

Has a book every made you angry. If so, which one?

Many books make me angry but it’s usually not for the right reasons (a good reason for a book to make me angry is that it’s provocative in content and makes me think, even if I don’t like it). But it’s the books –mostly anthologies, which is what I read the most of –for my Best Horror of the Year—that contain stories that are poorly written, unedited, and with no intent other than to gross out the reader.

What was the first story that ever made you afraid?

I don’t recall but I remember the first stories that moved me in some way emotionally (fear as part of that): the Oscar Wilde fairy tales my mother read to me as a child. There were no heroes, just victims eg The Happy Prince and the devastating tale “The Nightingale and the Rose”.

Is self publishing the new 'slush-pile’?

Yes it is-- except when someone who self-publishes is already known for publishing good work. Everyone needs an editor, that is, someone who has nothing at stake but to read your work with a critical and sympathetic eye. There are occasionally gems among self-published work just as there are gems found in the “old” slush pile, but they’re few and far between.

After all this time reading submissions, is there a well trodden meme you’re tired of seeing?

Yes and no - there are certainly overused treatments of certain types of subjects and themes: eg vampires, zombies in horror and in science fiction the AI becoming more human, but the best writers can make anything fresh with their use of language, tone, voice, and creation of interesting, three dimensional characters.

Are there any other genres you enjoy other than speculative fiction?

I only have time to read what I love and work in. More horror and dark crime fiction than science fiction these days, although I hope to be soliciting and reading more excellent short science fiction now that I’m consulting for

Are there any significant differences between American and British/European writers of speculative fiction?

I’ve mostly been reading fantasy and horror but haven’t read enough non US/UK/Australian writers to judge. I know that the Australian sense of place can be very different from that of US writers and I encourage that. I’ve been reading the UK ’s Gray Friar Press series of horror anthologies set in different parts of the UK and enjoying them but I don’t really perceive that much difference from area to area (except in topography).

I’ve been keeping up on the US publisher Akashic’s series of
Noir anthologies from all over the world and there seem to be more similarities than not from state to state, country to country. The differences are more pronounced between urban and rural areas. Of course, I may just be dense. The series Exotic Gothic (in its 4th volume) edited by Danel Olson features stories from all over the world but most of the stories are written by US/UK/Australian writers who although they may have lived for brief periods in these “exotic” climes, are not native to them. So although these stories take place in other countries the sensibilities are usually not European (or East Indian, African, Latin American, etc).

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who had a positive influence on her fields of endeavor: science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction by encouraging and publishing great writers.

Sheri looked kind of disappointed. Ellen had given us more than enough, but more than enough left Sheri still hungry.  I recognised the glint in her eye and shuddered. It was time to release Ellen before it was too late. I tossed two books in Sheri's direction, hoping their titles might distract her whilst I quickly released our guest from her bonds. "Thank you, Ellen. You're one hell of a dame." Sheri seemed oblivious, books in hand
Snow White, Blood Red, and Teeth. They could have been written for her.

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